Humanscale’s flagship office chair, the Freedom Chair, is best known for its simplicity and high-end design. Unlike many of the office chairs available, it’s unique look is rarely confused with another office chair. Featuring a lightweight design, weight-sensitive recline function and fully adjustable headrest, the Freedom chair has a lot to offer. Is this product good for you? Let’s take a closer look to find out.
Need help? Get our Free Office Chair Buying Guide!
Full Disclaimer: We are an office furniture dealer and sell some of the products we review. To learn more about the products we sell, our review process and why you can trust us, please visit: Why we’re different. Who is BTOD.com and The Breakroom Blog?
Freedom Headrest Review Snapshot
- Simple high-end design
- Good build quality
- Pivoting lower lumbar support
- Weight activated recline function
- Ability to task while reclined
- Easy to operate armrests
- Gel seat option
- Full recline position with headrest
- High price tag
- Made in Mexico
- Armrests can be too wide for small users
Founded in 1983 by CEO Robert King, Humanscale has always been focused on creating healthy and active ways to work. It is headquartered in New York, with locations in more than 28 countries. Humanscale is considered to be the leader in ergonomics. Its chairs have even been featured in TV shows and films. Humanscale continues to produce products that are both innovative and focused on living a healthy lifestyle.
Humanscale Freedom Chair Review Links
– Specs / Features / Pricing
– Return Policy and Warranty
– Shipping and Assembly
– Build Quality
– Scope of Users
– Seat Comfort
– Back Support
– Armrest Comfort
– Ergonomics Adjustments
– Upholstery Options
– Wheel/Caster Options
– What I Like
– What I Don’t Like
– Bottom Line
Humanscale Freedom Chair Video Review
In 1998, Neils Diffrient and founder, Robert King, brought together a shared devotion to ergonomics and functionality, creating the Freedom Chair. Launching in 1999, it was the first of its kind, introducing a weight activated recline mechanism, changing how you sat and worked. The Freedom Chair was designed so the user was be able to shift throughout the day, without losing proper support. To learn more about the Freedom Chair read the Humanscale Story: The Creation of the Freedom Chair.
Country of Origin
Assembled in the USA of domestic and foreign components
Overall Dimensions: 26.75”W x 26”D x 48.2-53”H
Seat Height: 16” – 21”
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs.
Seat Dimensions: 20”W x 17.5”-19.5”D
Back Dimensions: 18”W x 20.9”H
Distance Between Arms: 18” – 21”
Arm Height from Seat: 2.5” – 8.75”
Base Dimensions: 26” Diameter
Chair Weight: 38 lbs.
Seat slider function
Weight sensitive + self-locking recline mechanism
Height adjustable backrest
Pivoting backrest + lumbar support system
300 lbs. weight capacity
2021 Starting Price – $1169.00
Our test chair included: Standard black upholstery, graphite frame and base, advanced Duron arms, standard cylinder, carpet casters, and gel seat pad. Total = $1,222.00
Humanscale Freedom chairs are made to order, they are not eligible for return.
Humanscale seating products come with a 15-year, 24/7 rating warranty on all seating components. This includes frames, cylinders, casters, base, etc. Humanscale upholstery, cushions and arm pads are covered for a period of five years. It is a single shift warranty on the upholstery, cushions and arm pads.
See The Best Office Chairs For 2021
After months of testing 40+ ergonomic chairs, the results are in!
The Freedom chair ships via FedEx/UPS ground in a large box that weighs about 55 lbs. It has handles to make it easier to move, but with a box this large you may want to have some help.
Humanscale does a great job of keeping their packaging minimal, not using any foam that is harmful to the environment. With only a small amount of extra cardboard in the box, removing the Freedom from the box is straight forward.
Humanscale ships the Freedom chair almost completely assembled. With the base, casters and cylinder preassembled. The backrest, headrest and seat come preassembled as well. You will need to simply connect the top and bottom sections. Then, the Freedom chair will be ready to use.
Ranked squarely in the top ten for build quality, the Freedom chair is a well-built chair. With a starting price of $1,169.00, ranking in the top ten is expected for a chair at this price.
The attention to detail was obvious on the Freedom, much like the other high-end products I’ve reviewed, the fit and finish were perfect. Humanscale incorporates a lot of aluminum componentry throughout the frame. This type of material helps to provide strength, while creating a high-end style that keeps the weight of the chair down. Neils Diffrient’s focus on simplicity is apparent. With only one lever sticking out from under the seat, it has a clean design.
Where plastic was used, the finish was also well done. One of the things we found on some of the less expensive products is that the plastic component quality doesn’t always match the rest of the chair. With the Freedom, the molds used to create the plastic components must be perfect for it to look as clean as it does.
Scope of Users
Humanscale makes mention of the Freedom’s focus on fitting the 5th to 95th percentile of the population. Landing at the top five for the scope of users, we would have to agree they did a good job fitting a wide range of users.
As advertised, the Freedom should fit most users from 5’0 up to 6’4” tall. With a seat height range from 16” – 21”, it is right on par with the likes of Steelcase’s Leap and Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair.
The Freedom comes standard with a seat sliding function and back height adjustment. Our model included the headrest, which was also height adjustable. Being able to fine tune these areas of the chair are important to create a custom ergonomic fit.
We selected the advanced Duron arms, which include adjustable width armrests. The arms provide a little over 6” of height adjustment, with the lowest position being 2.5”. Users that are short will appreciate this wide height adjustment range, as well as those who like to type without the support of armrests. The width is adjustable, from 18” to 21” as well. At 18” wide, the arms could be too far apart for smaller users. Humanscale Freedom’s standard armrests are 19” wide.
The Freedom comes standard with a 300 lbs. weight capacity. While this is better than some of the less expensive models, the Steelcase chairs offer up to 400 lbs. When compared to its peers, the Freedom has been docked a few scope of user points because of the lower weight capacity.
Because it is one of the most subjective scores, our seat comfort rating is based on an average of nine different users. Each user is a different age and weight; the group includes five men and four women. With this group, we can get a better idea of how a seat is for everyone.
Our Freedom chair is equipped with the upgraded gel seat option. Unfortunately, that didn’t bode well for the seat score. With a 67 out of 100, it wasn’t a bad score, but it did land it in the middle of the pack.
Looking closer at the results, something stood out to me. Overall, the score was split. Four of the users gave a score of 75 or higher. Five of the users gave a score of 70 or less. It was even more interesting looking at who scored what. Three of the four women scored the Freedom’s gel seat under 70. None of the men scored the gel seat less than 70 though.
The two other Humanscale chairs we tested, the Liberty and Diffrient, both scored 79 and 80 respectively. Of the 18 scores between the Liberty and Diffrient, only one user scored below 70. If you’re on the fence about gel vs. standard, the safe option is to go with the standard pad. The standard seat pad is also $53 less, so it can help to bring the cost of the chair.
The same scoring system is used for back support, because like the seat, it tends to be a bit subjective. We look at two areas for backrest support: comfort and overall support.
One of the issues with how we score a backrest is that the lower back and upper support get blended together. Because of this, chairs like the Freedom and Ergohuman Leather don’t get the full credit they are due for providing excellent lower support.
When you sit in the Freedom chair, the first thing you will likely notice is how pronounced the lower lumbar region is. It hits your back right away and if you’re looking for great lower support, the Freedom chair has it. The backrest also has a pivoting function, which is unique unto itself. As you move back and forth in the chair, the lumbar moves with you.
With the Freedom’s weight activated recline function, you’ll likely find yourself moving throughout the day more than with other chairs. With the pivoting lumbar, there was never a point that I felt my lower back wasn’t properly supported.
The Freedom chair is the first chair I’ve found myself reclining and continuing to do computing tasks in. This is possible because of the position the headrest puts you in. Designed to support your neck and head, the headrest automatically adjusts to keep your eyes focused on the monitors. In order to do this properly, it requires the use of an articulating keyboard tray and a footrest. These will ensure you maintain a proper ergonomic position for your arms and legs.
While I enjoy reclining the in the Freedom chair, I don’t like to be in a full recline. The full recline position adjusts the headrest in a way that bends my neck/head forward awkwardly. Alternatively, 75 percent of full recline feels like a more neutral position.
Armrest comfort was the last category that we use all nine people to find an average score. This is the last part of the chair that tends to be subjective. When scoring, we looked at how comfortable the arms were for user’s elbows and forearms. We also consider how well the arms adjust to fit the individual.
The Duron arm pads, on the Humanscale Freedom chair, have a nice squishiness to them. The Duron provides a durable skin while not being to firm. I never felt like I was bottoming out with my elbow during testing. Freedom is also one of a handful of options in the list that have arms that recline with you, which provides good support if you like to work this way.
As mentioned in the scope of users section, the arms are height and width adjustable. With a good range for height, most users should be able to find a comfortable position. With 18” minimum between the arms, the arms could be a bit too wide for smaller body types. I found that the width was good for me.
Don’t let the lack of knobs and levers under the Freedom’s seat confuse you. This chair is a high-end ergonomic chair, ranked with the third highest score for ergonomic adjustments, with an 88 out of 100. There are plenty of adjustments to fine tune the Freedom to fit your body.
One of the first things I noticed about the Freedom was how easy making adjustments was. Access to adjust the chair is straightforward as well and when making the adjustments it didn’t require a trick.
The seat sliding mechanism on the Freedom was one of the easier that I have used. The position of the Freedoms adjustment lever is key to this, allowing you to simultaneously push the lever and pull/push the seat pan.
The height adjustable arms on the Freedom rank at the top of the list for ease of adjustment. You will need to grab the front of the arm pads, gently pull/tilt upward and the lock releases. Raise or lower to the position you like and drop the front of the arm pad to lock the arms. Since both arms move together, there isn’t a need to try and get each aligned to the same height. We selected the advanced Duron arms, which provide 3” of width adjustment.
Adjusting the back and headrest can be done with one hand. It is nice that they move separately, allowing for different body types to find a comfortable posture. I found that I liked my backrest lower when reclined but kept the head/neckrest in the same position. Others could be different, so the flexibility is a nice touch.
The recline function on the Freedom is probably the best feature of all. You can simply push back in the chair and it will begin to recline. Stop pushing and the chair will remain in place. I was able to do this in any position without issues of the chair not holding in place.
The Freedom chair is highly customizable and is likely one of the reasons they will not accept returns. With 49 fabric upholstery options and 7 leather options, you should have no problem getting the perfect match for your space. The seven leather options are available with eight different colors of box stitching, which is something we’ve only found on the Freedom chair.
There are currently five different cylinder height options available. The standard is a 5” tall cylinder, which is what we used on our model. Humanscale also offers low, tall, high with footring and return height options.
The Freedom is available with four options for casters. The standard option is the hard caster, designed for use on low pile carpet. They have soft casters available that are for use on hard surfaces like hardwood or tile. Glides are available for those who wish to keep the desk planted in one place. Humanscale also offers a locking caster option, which would be best suited for drafting stools.
The Freedom chair is GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality, GREENGUARD Gold and level® certified. The Freedom chairs lightweight design also minimizes the environmental impact of its shipping.
What I Like
Simple High-End Design
The Freedom Chair is one of my favorites for aesthetics. Clean and simple, with well thought out aluminum throughout the frame. This chair looks just as good today as it did when it was first released in 1999. Depending on your budget, Humanscale has a plethora of upholstery and base options to customize the look of your new chair. If you decide on leather, there is eight different box stitching colors to choose from.
Good Build Quality
Ranked in the top five for build quality, The Freedom Chair comes with a high level of quality out of the box. From the quality of the stitches throughout the seat and back to the fit and finish of the frame, the Freedom is nicely done from the top to bottom.
While the chair isn’t made in the USA, it is being assembled there. You can rest assured that Humanscale is extra stringent on the product quality leaving their facility.
Pivoting Lower Lumbar Support
If you’re looking for solid lower lumbar support, the Freedom is a great option. Pair that with its unique pivoting function and you’ve got plenty of lower support, no matter how you move around in your chair. I found that even when I reclined back into the Freedom chair, my lower back was well supported.
The backrest is also height adjustable for different height users to fine tune where they get the most support. I liked this option when I went back into a reclined position since the area needing the most support moved a bit lower. I also liked that the height adjustment could easily be done with one hand while seated in the chair.
Weight Activated Recline Function
Having tested other chairs with a weight-activated recline function, I was a bit skeptical of the Freedom’s take on this. After spending ten days in the Freedom Chair, it is hands down the best in the business. This should be much of a surprise, considering Humanscale is the innovator of this functionality for office seating.
No matter the position I recline too, The Freedom has no issues locking into place. Not needing to adjust tension control makes the process simple. The simplicity of it made my movements more frequent, creating more flexibility in my sitting posture throughout the day.
Ability to Task While Reclined
One of the more unique functions of the Freedom Chair with headrest is the ability to task in a reclined position. With how the headrest supports the neck and head, I found this to be a comfortable working position. Naturally, the Freedom will keep your eyes focused on the screen with proper positioning of your neck and head.
To do this properly, you will need to use an adjustable keyboard system. Being able to tilt your keyboard and mouse into a position will maintain a neutral wrist position while reclined. I would also highly recommend adding a footrest to allow your feet to remain flat on the floor.
Height Adjustable Arms
Humanscale’s commitment to simple and easy continued throughout the armrest experience as well. Height adjustments to the armrests only require one hand and guarantee your arms are always at the same height.
If you like to adjust your arm independently, the Freedom’s armrests will not allow for this. I would suggest looking at the Diffrient Smart chair as a Humanscale alternative for this functionality.
What I Don’t Like
Gel Seat Option
The Gel seat option of the Freedom Chair is either a love it or just prefer something else situation. Meaning, either users really enjoyed their experience with it or they scored it below average in the 60’s. This doesn’t necessarily mean they hated it by any means, but for $1000 you’d be best served to find something you love.
The standard seat cushion, offered for $55 less, is a much better alternative for most people. If you’re on the fence with this and can’t try the chair first, I would recommend going with the standard seat cushion.
Full Recline with Headrest
Mentioned above in my likes, I do love to recline and task in the Freedom Chair. I found there was a point in which the recline became uncomfortable for me. I would say it was at about 75% recline, and beyond, that my neck felt like it was being bent awkwardly. I personally preferred a bit more neutral positioning.
Because of the automatically locking recline function, I was easily able to lock myself into a comfortable position that wasn’t fully reclined. With so many body types and preferences, some may prefer a reclined angle for tasking. Freedom will provide a lot of flexibility for most users.
High Price Tag
With our current configuration, the chair we tested retailed for over $1200. Like the other high-end chairs, we tested from Herman Miller and Steelcase, this will be out of a lot of people’s budget. You can save some money from our configuration, going with only height adjustable arms and the standard seat pad. This will price the cost closer to the $1000 mark. While still expensive, this is the cost you must pay to get into a new high-end seating option.
Country of Origin
While the chair is currently designed and built in the USA, the parts are being made in Mexico. Like the Steelcase Leap chair, we would have preferred to see this production moved to the USA.
The last thing I didn’t like about the Humanscale Freedom was prevalent in all three of the Humanscale chairs we tested. With a minimum arm width of 18”, smaller frames won’t be able to properly use the Freedom Chairs arms. If you don’t get the advanced Duron arms, the minimum arm width is 19”. Considering how adjustable this chair is, I was a bit surprised to see this.
After spending about ten days in the Humanscale Freedom, it went from a chair I didn’t really consider on a day to day basis, to one of my favorites. Like all high-end chairs we’ve tested, they all come with their unique approach to comfortable ergonomic seating. While less expensive options don’t generally do this, all of the expensive chairs I’ve tested do.
With so many adjustments, it really comes down to getting the chair properly positioned for you. I like a chair with good lower support, so the Freedom chair is a good fit for me. If you’re looking for more of a neutral lumbar system, this won’t be the best option.
While there weren’t a ton of options in our list that included a headrest, I’ve used plenty in my thirteen years in the industry. I have to say, the Freedom was the first chair I could get into a reclined position and still be efficient on the computer. This positioning helped to reduce pressure on my tailbone and lower spine as well. If you’re looking for that feel, this could be a good fit.
Overall, the Humanscale Freedom is a nice ergonomic chair, that offers good aesthetics for those wanting a high-end design. It ships almost fully assembled and comes with a nice warranty as well. If you’re smaller framed, the arms might be a bit too wide for you though. Depending on your budget, the Freedom Chair might not be a viable option, with a base price of around $1000. If you can afford it, I would recommend that you consider the Freedom Chair.
Additional Office Chair Resources
- Herman Miller Aeron Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)
- Steelcase Leap v2 Ergonomic Office Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)
- Humanscale Diffrient Smart Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)
- 5 Reasons Ergonomic Chairs Will Improve Your Back Pain
- 6 Common Problems With Mesh Office Chairs
- 9 Most Common Problems With The Raynor Ergohuman Chair